Just like every article of such kind starts, I guess it’s imperative these days to make some disclosures. So here are some: I am a cricket fan. An average cricket fan. I do not intend to hold any office in the BCCI in any near future or farther future, as a matter of fact. I do not have any malicious intent towards the office holders of the BCCI. Like I said, I am just an average cricket fan.
I know cricket averages of Lara and Pujara and when my son grows up I want to tell him tales of Laxman and Dravid bating for the whole day and more and defeating the Aussies. Of Ganguly waving his t-shirt at lords. Of Sachin scoring a century in a world-cup match after coming back from his father’s funeral. Just an average Indian cricket fan. And guess what! Ask any international cricketer and they will tell you that an average Indian cricketer is passionate about the game. There is no other country where even a single to third man is cheered so madly. From some of the reports that I read, Indian cricket apparently accounts for up to 70% of cricket economy. May be an exaggerated number but, without taking anything away from cricket fans from other countries, the crux of the matter is an average Indian cricket fan is why the game of cricket has reached where it has.
It was with this sense of pride that I finally went to see a cricket match at the stadium. The second T20I between India and England in Nagpur. I was just back in my hometown, and it had been years since I had been to a stadium. The last match I had seen sitting at a ground was the thriller between England and Ireland at Bangalore. Of course, you all know Kevin O’Brien scored that brilliant century and John Mooney scored the wining boundary. I was super excited. I had heard a lot about the brand new Vidharbha Cricket Academy (VCA) stadium built conveniently just outside the city. I had also heard about the so many facilities around the stadium including a fitness center and a swimming pool. And so I went.
Oh wait! I had to book a ticket first. India– being this digitally advanced country and all that, I went to www.bookmyshow.com to buy myself a ticket. Suddenly, my older memories were back. Standing outside the ticket offices at 4 in the morning and the happiness of finally getting a ticket at 3 in the afternoon. Anyway, those days were behind me. I logged in. Clicked on the book ticket link and hey…this is the message I get.
I mean seriously? I have to wait in line to book a ticket online? However, since they said up to an hour, I waited. After 2 hours, there were still more than 1.5 lakh people before me. I gave up. When I tried to close the app, I was told that I would lose my place. What is the point of online booking then? And why give booking privileges to a website that cannot handle online traffic?
I was lucky, however. I remembered that one of my uncles was a life member of VCA. I asked him if I could get a ticket through him. He said yes. And I got it. I managed to reach there and see the match. My experience? Not so pleasant. These are some of my thoughts after the match.
- BCCI is the largest and richest cricket body in the world and the people who have made it that, the spectators, are treated with complete apathy.
- The list of things you cannot take inside is super long, some justifiable, but some ridiculous. For example one is not allowed to carry coins inside. Can you believe it? Outside the gate there was a coin collection box. And if you think you can get your money, albeit little, back after the match from the security and the police, you are sadly mistaken.
- The newly built stadium in Nagpur, has all the facilities but for public parking, it’s a nightmare. Because of the traffic jams, I had to park my scooter 2 km before the stadium. Even the parking at the stadium was just an open ground. It was so dusty that it was hazardous.
- The stadium is right next to a national highway. With about 35,000 people going there, it caused a great discomfort to the routine buses and trucks that were traversing that part. If you could pay millions to build that stadium, why couldn’t you ensure to build a decent side road for the stadium which leads you straight to a decent parking place?
- Inside the stadium, of course you are not allowed to carry food or water. Like everything in India including multiplexes, nothing is sold at MRP. Even the cold drinks which were officially being sold at 50 Rs were being sold at 60 and the vendor insisted that the extra 10 rupees was his “carrying” charge.
- Dominoes managed to sell their pizzas inside at prices much more than the MRP.
- No dustbins. At least none visible while a took a long walk searching for one.
- The toilets – sadly only two for about 8000 people. They were stinking even before the match had begun.
- In some sections of the stands, there were no safety features in case of fire or a stampede.
- The situation back home after the match was worse as all the people who had arrived at different times began to leave at the same time. There was no traffic management. Only dust and people cursing each other and going on the wrong side of the highway.
- The stand where I managed to sit after getting a member’s pass, had a large number of empty seats while many people who were not so fortunate and yet more passionate, stood outside begging for tickets.
But then, who cares? We are these cricket fanatics who will cheer, and I say this without meaning any disrespect, even when a Manish Pandey defends the ball well. BCCI of course knows, that they have a hen that lays a golden egg and there will always be enough buyers in a country of 1.2 billion.